Nudging in Education

 

Can we nudge children, youths and their parents to make better educational decisions? It is well-known that decision making is influenced by a number of behavioural barriers such as limited self-control, limited attention, status-quo bias, etc. These barriers may be particularly relevant for educational decisions that are taken at young ages when the brain is not fully developed.

This can motivate nudging interventions to alter people’s behaviours in a predictable way without forbidding any options or significantly changing their economic incentives. Examples include the use of reminders, intermediate deadlines, changing default settings, new framing of information, etc. Policies using nudging have received a lot of attention because of typically low implementation costs and early promising results. But do similar positive effects arise if applied to the area of education?    

Time Period:

2016-2017.

Target group:

Children, adolescents, teachers and parents who have participated in nudging interventions.

Number of participants:

Participants in previous nudging interventions within the area of education.    

Intervention:

At TrygFonden’s Centre for Child Research we review existing literature using randomized trials to assess the effect of nudging or other behaviourally motivated interventions to alter behaviour in educational contexts. The purpose of the review is to determine whether and under what circumstances the considered behavioural interventions are effective.

Research:

The literature review includes already completed field interventions using nudging or other behaviourally motivated interventions such as boost policies aimed at improving decision-making capabilities or more traditional policy tools with behavioural elements (e.g. a change in incentive structure inspired by behavioural economics). We include projects in a wide geographical area covering for example the US, South American countries, European countries and countries in Africa.

Partners:

European Expert Network on Economics of Education, European Commission Directorate-General for Education and Culture.

Results:

Nudges and behavioural interventions show some promise in terms of triggering positive behavioural changes. However, evidence so far is modest and it is therefore too soon to provide general policy recommendations for implementing nudging interventions in education. Positive results are typically found for interventions providing reminders, easy access to information, boosting of decision-making capabilities and assistance, coaching or mentoring. Common for these interventions is that they target attentional and cognitive limitations (sometimes in addition to other behavioural biases) and often have the potential to improve decision making.

Generally, the interventions seem most effective at changing the behaviour of individuals who are close to behaving as desired. There is also some evidence that many of the interventions are most effective for students with low SES.

The project is expected to be concluded in Spring 2017. 

Keywords:

Nudging, behavioural barriers.    

Project group

Helena Skyt Nielsen

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